The Toronto Transit Commission's new CEO is warning trouble-making employees he won't back them when they "wreck all of our reputations" by texting, sleeping or otherwise misbehaving on the job.
In a strongly worded letter to all staff Friday, Andy Byford lamented the harm done to the transit authority's reputation by a "small minority of staff."
In the last two weeks, riders with cell phone cameras have captured TTC operators texting, reading a newspaper while driving and parking illegally to grab a snack.
The pictures have turned up in local media, embarrassing the transit authority as it tries to turn over a new leaf under Mr. Byford's leadership.
"In my time here, I have gone on record as saying how much I respect what front line staff do and how 99 per cent of you do a great job. That remains the case and I will continue to publicly back you," Mr. Byford wrote.
"But a small minority of staff continue to wreck all of our reputations. To them I say: I will not back you, in fact I will expect you to face the consequences of your actions, especially if you put customers' safety at risk."
Mr. Byford ascended to the top job at the TTC earlier this year, after the transit authority's board voted to fire veteran transit boss Gary Webster, who opposed Mayor Rob Ford's subway ambitions.
The new CEO has since vowed to improve the transit agency's service and its dismal reputation with riders.
The TTC's chief spokesman distributed a copy of Mr. Byford's no-more-nonsense note to reporters.
"I have given my managers clear direction: back staff to the hilt that do the right thing or who make an honest mistake. But to those few that choose to ignore safety rules or who recklessly make things worse for their colleagues by their actions, expect to be held to account," Mr. Byford wrote.
"I am convinced we can change this situation and transform everyone's perceptions of the TTC. Please heed this advice."
Bob Kinnear, the president of the union that represents TTC workers, commended Mr. Byford for his letter, especially its praise of the majority of employees who do their jobs well.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 issued its own warning to staff Thursday night with a phone message from Mr. Kinnear.
"I commended the 99 per cent of the employees that do a difficult job under challenging circumstances but I also made it very clear that the conduct of a small minority of employees … texting, reading the paper or using the phone is completely unacceptable," Mr. Kinnear said in an interview. "Not only did I say that, I also advised the membership that many, many of our members are now calling with complaints about individuals compromising our credibility."
Mr. Kinnear said that in the last year or so, "a number" of TTC employees have been disciplined for misbehaving on the job. Penalties have ranged from a few weeks without pay to dismissal.
ATU Local 113 has defended those workers largely because it has to, Mr. Kinnear added.
"We have an obligation to defend employees. We, in fact, under the Labour Relations Act, have a legal obligation to do that," he said.